A community of people with Parkinson's Disease who have a desire to sing and know of its therapeutic value will need to consider the following factors in developing a therapeutic singing group. Some of these components are essential in order to comply with the requirements of the Tremble Clefs Program. However, there is room for tailoring the organization to best meet the needs of any particular beginning group.
Below are recommendations for starting a successful program.
One element that is essential is the composition of the group. Family members and care partners of people with Parkinson's are always welcome, in fact encouraged to join the Tremble Clefs. This provides a more natural, social (versus solely therapeutic) atmosphere, and allows couples, or children and parents and helpers to share the experience. Each person brings different qualities to the group dynamic and to the musical output of the chorus. It allows the person with Parkinson's the comfort and confidence of being accompanied, while offering the partner all the benefits of the group. Additionally, no previous musical experience is expected of members. The program is one of therapeutic singing. Lastly, the group should be maintained only for people living with Parkinson's Disease (excluding, for example, other motor disorders). This is what gives the group its underlying cohesion. Nobody really knows Parkinson's unless they have lived with it. It helps provide an immediate bond and ongoing support and understanding.
You may read further information about starting a Tremble Clefs group by clicking on the following components. You may also request workshop information by contacting: TrembleClefsInfo@gmail.com
The responsibilities described here are best undertaken by one person but may also be shared as roles assumed by a separate musical director and manager. The position may be filled by a volunteer or by a professional. The skills of a speech or music therapist work well, but this is not the only background compatible with the abilities required of the musical director. The person in this job will need to:
a. choose the music b. lead the breathing, stretching, vocal and movement warm-ups at rehearsal c. conduct the singing at rehearsals and performances d. arrange for solos, special effects, motions, dancing etc. e. coordinate with the accompanist or a substitute when necessary f. negotiate and arrange for the performance sites and dates g. type-up large-print words for each program of songs, make copies h. serve as contact with the community, media etc. i. participate, with other members, in the administration of group business j. raise funds or assist fund-raisers in representing the group
This position may be filled by a competent, reliable volunteer or paid professional. This person must:
a. read music b. play the piano at rehearsals and performances c. transcribe music to a different key (if necessary and as skills allow)
Various locations may be investigated for rent-free or minimal-rent arrangements. Possibilities include:
a. community centers b. senior centers c. rehabilitation centers d. nursing homes e. senior residence facilities f. churches g. hospitals
The site requirements include access to a piano, as well as adequate space and seating for all members. Keyboards have not been found to be satisfactory on a permanent basis. However, depending on the level and quality of amplification, this may be an option is a piano is not available.
In addition to piano, other accompanying instruments/musicians may be added such as a bass or guitar, violin or saxophone.
Weekly practice is ideal. This allows an intensive vocal work-out each week with time in between to do vocal exercises and practice the songs independently. A practice tape or CD can be made by the accompanist or taped during rehearsal and copied for distribution to individual members. Played in the car, in the kitchen or workshop, it gives an opportunity to maintain voice and continue learning the songs between practices.
One-and-a-half or two hour session are preferred. This allows time for vocal and movement warm-ups, singing, a break, and singing again. The scheduled break is an extremely important time. The socializing and support, exchange of information and friendship, the warmth and understanding shared is a critical ingredient in the success of this type of group. A beverage and snack, and getting up to stretch and move is usually welcomed after an hour or so of singing.
Daytime rehearsal and performance schedules help accommodate those members who prefer not to drive at night. Rush hour and daylight timetables should be considered if possible.
It is possible to start a local Tremble Clefs Program without outside funds. However, this significantly limits the options and increases the workload taken on by the singers. All the organizing and jobs must be assumed by volunteers. The musical director should be dedicated and trained and the accompanist competent and reliable. Paying a person for their services does not insure these qualities, but it greatly expands the community of talented candidates.
On the other hand, volunteers from within the Parkinson's community, people with Parkinson's or closely associated with Parkinson's, bring to the position their intimate knowledge and sensitivity. Additionally, fund-raising requires considerable skill, responsibility and time, often not readily available to the beginning organization.
Alternately, amateur fund-raisers, member donations and slush funds may cover start-up and some basic operating costs. However, a founding tenet of the Tremble Clefs Program is that member contributions are strictly voluntary. No one should have to pay to participate in the Tremble Clefs Program.
Associating with a local Parkinson's organization such as the National Parkinson Foundation or the American Parkinson Disease Association can provide access to non-profit status as well as many other resources, including funding and networking capabilities. These local chapters can also be valuable in sharing their expertise, facilities and general support.
In addition to singing, members can participate in a wide range of other group-enhancing activities. The following is a partial list. The specific tasks will be tailored to the needs and resources of any given group and integrated with the responsibilities of other volunteers or professionals.
serve on a steering or advisory committee
get involved in fund-raising
be a contact or community information person
be a call-person, active in a “phone tree” for announcements/schedules
recruit new members (through support groups, other community programs)
keep and update a member roster
keep members supplied with shirts/screen printed logos
coordinate sign-ups or assign snack responsibilities
arrange for social events (group dinners, pizza, picnics, birthday cakes/cards etc.)
maintain a picture album, videotape library
design/print fliers or a brochure
A spokesperson taking the first step in initiating a Tremble Clefs Program would contact the local Parkinsons organization in the area. In larger cities in the United States, there is an affiliate of The National Parkinson Foundation or The American Parkinson Disease Association. These agencies sponsor support groups as well as other grass roots programs which directly involve Parkinson patients and families. If there is no local chapter, the nearest support group should provide a place to start. The support group format allows for meeting the Parkinson community and presenting the idea of singing. It is usually not difficult to be included on the schedule or agenda. This is the most effective way to introduce the program and rationale, gain support for the concept and recruit singers. The local chapter may well embrace the idea, offer some framework, connections to the Parkinson population or even funding. Sign-ups can be taken of all those interested in singing and/or helping to organize. The local media is also a good source of publicity and support. The uniqueness of the Tremble Clefs Program appeals to reporters in the entertainment/music, healthcare and geriatric news divisions of publications and television.
The geographic nucleus of interested individuals should help determine the meeting location for the group. Various rent-free facilities can then be researched and options for a director and accompanist can be explored. Make sure a piano is available.
If there is musical talent for directing or accompanying among the recruits, this is clearly an avenue to pursue. Word of mouth can sometimes provide the most reliable network. If not, professionals and possibly even volunteers may be available through a local university music department, music therapy or speech therapy associations and agencies, health care geriatric or senior citizens programs. The musical director needs compassion, patience and a soft, accepting human nature as well as talent and organizational skills. It requires a gentle balance of musical abilities, desire to teach and expand the capabilities of the group and sense of humor. If not from the Parkinson community, the individual with an open mind will soon learn a great deal about Parkinson Disease. The accompanist needs strong musical skills, flexibility, reliability and also a sense of humor. A caring personality is as important as musicianship.